A creative approach to help bridge the employment gap: Project Starfish


On Wednesday, march 19th, 2014, at 1:50 PM, I will be presenting a session at the CSUN Conference on Disability entitled, “A Creative Approach to Help Bridge the Employment Gap: Project Starfish.” As a business advisor and the Director of Recruitment for the program, I have acted as a face of the organization since its inception. I invite you to attend the session, and learn how you can share my passion for facilitating employment opportunities for people who are blind or visually impaired. If you’d like to indicate your interest in the session and save a seat, go here:

http://www.csun.edu/cod/conference/2014/sessions/index.php/public/presentations/view/361

The founder of Project Starfish, Subhashish Acharya, or “Subs,” as he is called, sat for an interview with me to introduce the program to anyone who might have a desire to gain entry to, or to re-enter, the workforce. If you have a business, and find the idea of helping to build a platform by which people with disabilities can learn, earn, and grow, read on, then join us.

LL: Please tell my blog readers about the inspiration behind Project Starfish.
Subs: The straight answer is the high unemployment rate. Seventy to eighty percent is too high a number, which is exceptionally concerning to a person like me who has been in the industry for nearly 16 years. Imagine what the unemployment rate is in other countries like India, China etc.

The biggest inspiration has been to try and use my own talent in business that I have acquired over the years, and find out if possibilities exist. Can we find a solution, has been the inspiration. I have come across many, many blind people, and everyone has some kind of talent. It will be a waste not to leverage that for someone who needs it. To put the talent to use, provide the right training and creating a unique model that creates social impact and business impact together, and bringing hope in businesses and the blind community has been my inspiration. Humanity is always under evolution. There are choices we all make, every day, whether we believe it or not. While earning a paycheck from a good job and keeping the self happy is really important, it is also critical for all of us to reach out and create opportunities for those who need it. Over the years, I’ve realized compassion, charity, sympathy do work sometimes, but doesn’t provide a solution. The only thing that provides a solution to problems , I believe is, cooperation. We can all work together, can’t we? The only thing we need to do is devote time and have a purpose. Creating a model where businesses, business leaders, and people who are blind work together in a cooperative environment is the pilot of human evolution. A model that creates an example of cooperation has been my inspiration. I am proud of my members, businesses and teachers who have walked the talk and made it possible. Truly, you can look up to humanity again and say, “yes, Possibilities exist, if we work together.” Isn’t that quite an inspiration for everyone, not just me alone.

LL: Please explain the origin of the Project Starfish name.
Subs: The answer is going to quite surprise you. Just like many, I was always inspired by the story of a young boy in the Starfish story. In brief , here it is for those who haven’t read about it:

An old man is walking along the ocean and
sees a beach on which thousands and thousands
of starfish have washed ashore. Further along
he sees a young man, walking slowly and
stooping often, picking up one starfish after
another and tossing each one gently into the
ocean.

“Why are you throwing starfish into the
ocean?” He asks.

“Because the sun is up and the tide is going out
and if I don’t throw them further in they will
die,” replies the boy.

The old man counters, “But, young man, don’t you realize there are miles
and miles of beach and starfish all along it?
You can’t possibly save them all, you can’t even
save one-tenth of them. In fact, even if you
work all day, your efforts won’t make any
difference at all.”

The young man listened calmly and then bent
down to pick up another starfish and threw it
into the sea. “It made a difference to that one.”

You see, eighty-three percent of small businesses or startups die every 5 years because of the lack of talent. Imagine when these businesses die it brings demise to the product, the inspiration, sometimes their livelihood as well. Imagine what a devastating impact it can create to people, their families, business and the economy of a country. They need a lot of hands to help, and sixty percent of the country’s economy depends upon them.

On the other side, eighty percent of the adult blind population are looking for opportunities to learn, earn, and prove themselves. Why cant we simply create a workforce that will help these businesses out, grow them, and earn their employment just by working together? The only thing we need is training, creation of opportunities and cooperation. The workforce of participants who are blind helping the businesses is exactly the Starfish story. Imagine the workforce of blind team members worldwide helping each starfish(business) get back to the ocean. While this makes a difference to the business, it also makes a difference to the worker who is blind, where they experience real mainstream work, learn, earn grow and become employable. The key is to make both sides work together. A social and business camaraderie.

That’s the reason we named the initiative Project Starfish. Project defines the exactness of the purpose to work together and get as many starfish back to the sea, resulting in millions of jobs, happier families, income for all involved and a better economy, where business impact creates social impact as well.

LL: Tell us about your short term goals for Project Starfish.
Subs: We are 6 months into the journey. Our goal at the start was 10 blind professionals working with 10 businesses, at least fifty percent of whom were earning an income. Currently we have 25 people, working with 22 businesses, 20% of the businesses are international. It seems we can now be a little ambitious, I guess. Our short term goal by the end of 2014 is to have 100 blind professionals, 60% in the USA and 40% in India, Australia and UK. We will work with 100 companies, eighty percent of our professionals making an income. We have already started in Australia. Now we are looking to hire blind veterans as well.

LL: What do you see for the program five years from now?
Subs: We see 1000 blind professionals, becoming a huge change maker in helping startups across the world, and Project Starfish becoming a business research powerhouse for just-in-time, information as a service platform for corporations and small businesses.

LL: Can anyone join the team, or is it strictly for people who are blind?
Subs: We welcome anyone to interview with us, if they have a passion to succeed, ambition and want to make money. Seventy percent of those we interview have joined us and we put a lot of labor into revamping their skills so as to be relevant to businesses. Currently, we are focused on professionals who are blind, and we will slowly lead with people in different categories of disability.

You can follow Project Starfish via @ProjectSTARF1SH on Twitter.

More about the Project Starfish founders:
Founders Soumita and Subhashish ( a.k.a. Subs are a husband and wife team. Soumita is a filmmaker and owns 3 accessible films. Subs is a Director at Oracle America, managing the worlds largest management consulting company. Subs has over 15 years of business experience with technology and business. Subs was a programmer, a design artist, a multimedia expert at a different lifetime. He has phenomenal experience with business, processes, six sigma, sales, business development, innovative business strategies, management consulting, business operations and is an avid networker. They are passionate about serving the blind community, and both are advocates for people with disabilities.

During my presentation at the CSUN Conference on Disability, I will be speaking to two different audiences simultaneously. My aim is to attract both potential candidates for employment as well as the businesses that might employ them. Please plan to attend my session, and I will be available all week during the conference to answer questions and further elaborate on Project Starfish details.

About Laura Legendary:
Laura Legendary is a speaker, author, educator and entrepreneur, specializing in disability awareness, advocacy, accessibility, and assistive technology. She has developed and delivered curricula for the State of Washington Aging and Disability services for use in the continuing education program for independent in-home health care providers. To book Laura for your next corporate, community, or caregiver training, go to her flagship site, Eloquent Insights (www.eloquentinsights.com), or email l.legendary@eloquentinsights.com. Laura’s latest venture, Elegant Insights Braille Creations, showcases her distinctive collection of Braille embossed jewelry and accessories. Follow Laura @Accessible_Info or @ElegantInsights on Twitter, or for information about job opportunities for accessible web development, testing, accessible mobile, and other access and assistive technology professionals, follow @Accessible_Jobs on Twitter.

To indicate your interest in attending the session, go to:

http://www.csun.edu/cod/conference/2014/sessions/index.php/public/presentations/view/361

I look forward to seeing you. Don’t forget to use hashtag #CSUN14 when tweeting about the event.

LL

Online career fair for job-seekers with disabilities March 5th


Have you heard about this year’s Think Beyond the Label Online Career Fair? They will be hosting 4 events this year, and the first one is less than 2 weeks away – Tuesday, March 5 from 1 to 4 pm EST. Employers are registering now for these one-of-a-kind online career fairs to recruit job seekers with disabilities nationwide.

This year’s TBTL Online Career Fairs will again be powered by Brazen Careerist and will connect job seekers with businesses like Pearson, United Therapeutics, and Aetna, who are actively recruiting qualified candidates with disabilities—all without leaving their computer. It will be a great event to meet and chat with businesses who are committed to building a diverse workforce!

There are currently over 150 registered job seekers but more are needed. Please help spread the word about this event so that moore businesses recruit qualified candidates with disabilities now.
For more information or to register, visit the event’s page online – https://www.brazenconnect.com/event/thinkbeyondthelabel_mar_5. For questions or additional information contact Laura Wilhelm at lwilhelm@hdadvocates.org.

LL